Reflections on Peter Uka’s Cessationism
By: Deji Yesufu
Peter Uka and Oje Giwa-Amu entered into a debate on Cessationism on the 20th of August, 2020. By the close of the debate, it was clear that Peter’s opponent still had not understood his position because of his established mindset – which I have attempted to analyze in an earlier piece. Peter Uka has eventually put down his thoughts into a booklet and I urge my readers to download a PDF copy here. In the booklet, Peter Uka attempts to demystify Cessationism by looking at the whole subject under eight broad topics. They include:
- What Cessationism is not
- Explaining the office of Apostles and Prophets
- Defining the purpose of the Apostolic Office
- Apostles and Prophets as Foundation to God’s Building – the Church
- The Biblical Purpose of Miracles, Signs and Wonders
- Biblical Miracles were Carried Out by Apostles only
- The Apostolic Message
- Most Church Fathers were Cessationists
This brief review of Peter Uka’s booklet cannot examine all eight subtopics but I want to look closely at the very first topic and use it to make a case for Cessationism from a very recent experience of mine.
I went into seminary training a convinced Cessationist but by the time I was concluding my work, my thesis tested my Cessationism. Here is what happened. I wrote a thesis titled: “A Brief History of Christianity and an Examination of 150 Years of Theological Development in South-West Nigerian (1842-1992)”. In this thesis, I looked at the development of theology in Nigeria over three epochs: 1842-1900; 1900-1960; and 1960-1992. I discovered that missionary efforts were pioneered in the first epoch. In this period, the theology in most Nigerian churches followed denominational lines: Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, etc. By the turn of the new century, theology took a new dimension in Nigerian churches – particularly in the South West. Two men: Moses Orimolade and Joseph Ayo Babalola carried out remarkable Christian ministries mostly across South-West Nigeria – bringing a new lease of life to Christian churches in this region. Relics of Orimolade’s ministry can be found in the Cherubim and Seraphim churches around the country; while those of Ayo Babalola will be seen in Christ Apostolic Churches (CAC) across most of South-West Nigeria.
These men’s ministries, in the beginning, experienced tremendous, remarkable and verifiable miracles. Henry Dallimore wrote this about Ayo Babalola’s ministry in 1931:
“Great interest was aroused some nine months ago by the appearance of a man of striking personality and of real sincerity… Joseph Babalola, a CMS member, gave out that he had had a vision and had heard God call him to pray and preach, there was nothing new in his announcement; but it was soon evident that he had both personality and power. He was instrumental in carrying conviction to the hearts of thousands, causing them to cast away their idols, and to express a desire to learn of God in Christ. People flocked to him from all quarters, and the crowds became ever denser as rumours of remarkable miracles worked by him spread about the country. It was said that he even raised the dead…[i]”
There are hundreds of other testimonies recorded about the remarkable things that accompanied the ministries of Orimolade and Babalola. However, and interestingly too, it was recorded that these miracles suddenly stopped in the life and ministry of these men as abruptly as they began. It is because of experiences like this that many in this clime cannot even entertain a Cessationist perspective in their theology. This is why Peter Uka stating clearly what Cessationism is not in the beginning of the booklet is a good introduction to the whole subject.
Thus in stating what Cessationism is not, Peter Uka wrote:
- Cessationism does not deny miracles or supernatural occurrences
- Cessationism is not a denial or an attack on the work of the Holy Spirit
Here is the thing: most people reject the Cessationist perspective because they think that Cessationism denies miracles or supernatural occurrences. This is not true. Cessationists hold that God can work a miracle at any time and at any place because of his wonderful sovereignty. God can jolly well do whatever he wants anytime he wants. Secondly, rather than attacking the work of the Holy Spirit, Cessationism espouses the true work of the Spirit, while at the same time exposing false manifestations in the name of the Spirit’s work.
When we understand what Cessationism is not, we then realize why the thin line of divide between many Cessationists and Continuationists is actually a faulty line accentuated by debatable things and semantics. In reality Continuationists are reformed persons who hold to the continuation of some supernatural gifts of the Spirit – based mostly on their own experiences of the supernatural. The fact is that most people who experienced the life and ministry of Moses Orimolade and Ayo Babalola will not easily acquiesce to Cessationism as a doctrine. But when you understand that Cessationists do not deny the miraculous but are only very cautious about such claims, you can understand how one can still be a thorough going Cessationist in spite of genuine claims to the miraculous one might have heard of or experienced.
So why am I still a Cessationist, in spite of all that I read on Babalola and other revivalists in the early 20th century in Nigeria? It is simple. My Cessationism is not based on the availability or absence of miracles. My Cessationism is premised on the fact of the sufficiency of scriptures. The goal of most Cessationists that I know is to draw God’s people back to the Bible and to help them realize that the scriptures are enough to direct us on issues concerning our lives and godliness. Paul, writing to Timothy, stated that “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible and the doctrines that it teaches are sufficient to direct us in our decisions and life endeavors. Here is why this is so.
The Bible reveals what theologians like to call a “redemptive history”. A mind that is steeped in scripture understands the primary place that the doctrine of salvation occupies in God’s dealings with humanity. This person sees the sovereign outworking of God in all of history and even in our present times. He is able to position himself in God’s redemptive plans and allow himself to be a vessel for God to fulfill his ultimate plan of redemption for all humanity. The Bible comes alive for the person who sees it as sufficient and since the Holy Writ is penned by God the Holy Spirit, a life that is dictated by the truth of the Bible is a life that is directed by God the Holy Spirit. When we say the scriptures are sufficient for life and godliness, we are proclaiming a reality in the Christian that is better tasted than merely being told. This is why a Cessationist is never moved by stories of healing, miracles or signs and wonders in some place. A life steeped on a sufficient scripture is a truly blessed life (Psalm 1:1-3). He is a man whose root of faith is planted on the solid rock of God’s word and not in the ephemeral realities of human experiences.
Peter Uka essays challenges us to come up higher and enjoy greater realities in God’s holy laws. When Jesus was leaving his disciples, the Bible records that he opened their minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). This should be our prayers: that God will open our minds to understand the scriptures; that we would understand the great mystery around our salvation; that we would see the wonderful sovereignty of God working in our lives; and that we would position ourselves to be useful vessels for God in this life. One other thing that Cessationism does for the saints is that it so fills God’s people with truth that they possess great discernment and thus will be largely immune from the great religious deception our world is enmeshed in today. Recently I presented a paper where I argued that Cessationism, belief in a sufficient scripture, can very easily prove the falsehood in Islam.
Peter Uka’s booklet is a wonderful introduction to the subject of Cessationism. Those who are interested in learning more should find the sources quoted in the booklet and read them. Cessationism is not an easy subject to grasp; especially for those who have spent years in the Charismatic movement. But anyone who understands it has entered into new realms with God – particularly in the truth of the Holy Scriptures. A heart that is secured in the truth of a sufficient scripture will not be running around looking for miracles and such a person will not be easily deceived by the prevailing deception in most religious organizations around the world. Peter Uka does a great job demystifying Cessationism in this work. I hope you will get to read it and imbibe its truths in your heart.
You may download a free copy of Peter Uka’s booklet here.
[i] Abodunde, Ayodeji. A Heritage of Faith: History of Christianity in Nigeria. (Pierce Watershed Publishers. Lagos, Nigeria. Second edition, 2017.) Page 351